Recently there was a vigorous stream of dialogue in the comment sections of some recent posts (here and here), as well as conversations on my most recent Live Chat regarding language within the culture war between conservatives and the GLBT community (and how that language is used). As one of the commenter’s suggested in a post on his own blog, it’s good to understand and good to be understood. In building on that thought I want to talk about some of what I see as the key lingual fighting points that are not only misunderstood and misrepresented between communities, but also have taken on new cultural meanings that are at the core of the disconnect.
Four words come to mind right away:
Tolerance. Reconciliation. Affirming. Homophobia.
In my opinion these four words make up the roots, stem and branches in the tree of separation. I believe so strongly that both communities (gay and straight) need to start reclaiming language if anything is to move forward from our current interactions! Here are my thoughts on reclaiming language … within my own life, it started with the reclaiming of the word LOVE, and it’s time to build on this first wave of the Movement.
The word ‘tolerance’ has become one of those ugly, politically charged words that bring on a new (and incorrect) cultural understanding of the word’s original intent in definition and usage.
The culture war definition of Tolerance: If you don’t agree with me being _________ (fill in either GLBT or conservative Christian), or anything that comes with it, you’re ___________ (fill in either homophobic or deceived liberal). Therefore you’re wrong and need to change because you’re not tolerant.
That is not tolerance! That is a backhanded manipulation through cultural pressure.
My bridge building definition of Tolerance: A freedom to unconditionally love while still holding on to your belief system.
Tolerance is not pacifying someone else by ‘putting up with them’ – “them” being defined as belief system, life actions and lived experiences. True tolerance, bridge building tolerance, is to incarnationally listen and learn in the middle of places where you’re the extreme minority as you continue to go back week after week, month after month, year after year—wrestling with uncomfortable and very, very difficult topics rooted in extreme differences that bring out the most passion in people. And it is always done face to face. The only thing that can keep us learning what tolerance is really all about is a commitment to purposefully form an intentional broken community to humbly, and mutually understand each others felt-needs and filtration systems in a personal way through intimate relationship with the other [that is traditionally held as] “opposition.” In the end, the goal of a bridge building tolerance is to not necessarily agree (but that doesn’t mean agreement can’t happen), but rather contextually putting a personal life experience to the spiritual, emotional and social grappling’s of another human being’s perspective and experience.
Part 2 will be on Reconciliation, Part 3 on Affirming and Part 4 on Homophobia. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.